Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's formation of the power-sharing Movement for Democratic Change has accused Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa of escalating tensions in the country with comments hinting that his ZANU-PF party might not stand down if it loses elections many expect to be held next year.
Mnangagwa, long seen as a potential successor to President Robert Mugabe in leadership of the former ruling party, also chafed MDC officials by describing the former opposition party as a “puppet” of the West.
The ZANU-PF secretary for legal affairs is a prominent member of the so-called Joint Operations Command which in the turbulent 2008 election period took charge of Mr. Mugabe's interests in the run-off phase in which violence mainly directed against members of Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC formation was widespread and often deadly.
The JOC was supposed to have been dismantled under the terms of the 2008 Global Political Agreement for power sharing - but it is still meeting on a regular basis and is answerable only to Mr. Mugabe.
Mnangagwa was quoted as saying allowing the MDC to rule would negate the gains of independence since 1980.
The state-controlled, ZANU-PF leaning Herald newspaper quoted Mnangagwa as telling a ZANU-PF rally in Chivi, Masvingo province, that “we cannot allow [Zimbabwe] to slip back into the hands of neo-imperialists.”
Similar remarks came in 2002 from the late army General Vitalis Zvinavashe, who vowed that security chiefs would not accept the results of the presidential election that year if MDC founder Morgan Tsvangirai won it.
The MDC reported rising tensions in Masvingo, Manicaland and Midlands provinces in particular, and civic groups warn that the country is not ready for an election as the political parties have failed to embrace national healing.
Tsvangirai MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said Mnangagwa’s remarks were misguided and signaled that ZANU-PF is in the "sunset" of its time in power. Mnangagwa told a VOA reporter to "go to hell” before switching off his phone.
Political analyst Pedzisayi Ruhanya said Mnangagwa is using scare tactics as his party has little popular support.
The MDC has also castigated police for allegedly applying the law selectively, saying such practices promote violence. The party said the Zimbabwe Republic Police seems to favor ZANU-PF supporters, maintaining that officers do not ordinarily arrest militants of the former ruling party if they are involved in political violence.
Political analyst Mqondobanzi Magonya said the security reforms outlined in the Global Political Agreement should be implemented to instill professionalism in the national police force.